In light of the escalating multifaceted crises facing Ethiopia, reporting on the ongoing coordinated assault on the Ethiopian flag may seem like a trivial matter.
Ethiopia historically used the tricolor Ethiopian flag – Green, Yellow, and Red – during its resistance against colonial powers to safeguard its independence. This flag has served as inspiration across Africa and the Caribbean, making it a symbol of identity. Consequently, the current focus on the flag is not merely incidental but rather intricately tied to the broader political and security crises in the country.
The war on the Ethiopian flag started during the Tigray People’s Liberation Front domination of the federal government. However, under Abiy Ahmed’s government, this campaign has taken a new turn, ostensibly motivated by the Oromummaa ideology. The administration has introduced new emblems and color choices, evident in the “Prosperity Party” logo – a sort of “rainbow” flavored and other official insignias. How and why they were adopted is not known to the public.
In the latest series of actions, the government has altered the logo and colors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. The traditional Green, Yellow, and Red colors were replaced this week by Navy Blue, akin to the U.S. flag, accompanied by a depiction of the Ministry’s building. While this color lacks historical and political significance in the Ethiopian context, it has become a prevailing choice across various Federal institutions. The Intelligence department features it alongside an eagle, replacing the historic Black Lion used in many institutions. The Ministry of Finance uses Navy Blue as a background. The Prime Minister’s office was the first to introduce the blue color.
This shift is not merely an aesthetic choice or graphic design issue but it is a matter of identity. Concurrently, there has been a systematic effort to diminish the significance of the Ethiopian flag. Reports have emerged that security forces in Addis Ababa may stop individuals wearing green, yellow, and red colors in any form including wrist band. Displaying these colors in any form in the Oromia region has become unimaginable. Vehicles with stickers in these colors are halted, and owners are compelled to remove them. Despite recurring incidents, the government has not officially addressed these actions, implying a tacit approval or a potential government policy.
Moreover, there are indications that this may indeed be an unstated federal government policy. Instances include restrictions imposed during the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s Meskel Festival and businesses abandoning the traditional tricolor in their logos, as seen with Aqua Addis, a prominent bottled water provider.
While the Ethiopian Defense Force expressed allegiance to the “Green, Yellow, and Red” flag during the 88th-anniversary celebration of the Ethiopian Air Force, it remained silent when security forces conducted campaigns against the Ethiopian flag in Addis Ababa and the Oromia region.
Opposition parties in Ethiopia seem to treat it as a non-issue. Parliamentarians are not raising questions about the orchestrated and overt campaign against the Ethiopian flag. Meanwhile, the Prosperity Party appears to be eradicating the flag, promoting instead the flag associated with the Oromummaa forces’ Gedda and Waqqe Fana traditional religion, along with the Navy Blue color scheme adopted by federal institutions.
In less than a week, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is celebrating Epiphany, known for its open-air religious procession with the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ethiopian flag is an integral part of this tradition. There are unconfirmed reports that the government still intends to impose restrictions on the use of the Ethiopian flag where there is no legal basis – constitutional or otherwise – to do so. It remains to be seen how Ethiopians and opposition parties will respond if such restrictions are indeed enforced again